Glowforge Pro review: Laser cutting and engraving for serious hobbyists and makers


The Glowforge Pro appears like a bulky huge-format conventional printer, but alternatively than depositing ink on paper this 25kg (55lbs) unit engraves and cuts a selection of products.

Picture: Charles McLellan / ZDNet

3D printing, and its industrial counterpart additive manufacturing, is widely covered on ZDNet and in the media generally. Price ranges array from a several hundred dollars to seven-figure sums, with products including several sorts of plastic, resins, metals and even concrete. 

An additional variety of unit, which also spans the array from hobbyist to industrial purposes, is the CNC laser cutter/engraver, which can etch types into a selection of products, including plastic, leather-based, wood, steel and glass, and also slash out shapes from some of them, which you can then assemble into 3D objects. That is why Glowforge calls its unit a ‘3D laser printer’. 

Started in 2014, Glowforge raised a file $27.nine million for a thirty-day crowdfunding campaign in Oct of the pursuing yr, and introduced its finalised merchandise range in April 2018. There are three designs, with distinctive combinations of laser ability, effectiveness and most ‘print’ size. Glowforge Primary expenditures $2,995, although the Plus model expenditures $3,995 and the Pro variation expenditures $5,995. The company not too long ago introduced the availability of its merchandise line in the British isles (prices are a direct greenback-to-pound translation) — consequently the existence of the Pro model on the testimonials bench (Okay, my residence workplace) in this article at ZDNet British isles.


  • Quick to set up and use
  • Straightforward website-based application
  • Handles a vast array of products
  • Active and practical local community boards

Do not Like

  • Noise, odour
  • Pro model is high-priced
  • Won’t be able to engrave content above 5cm (2in.) thick
  • Proofgrade products are high-priced


The Glowforge Pro comes in a bulky and perfectly-guarded box measuring 116.8cm by 71.1cm by 35.5cm (46in. x 28in. x 14in.) and weighing 32kg (70lbs). The unit inside of is 96.5cm vast by 52.7cm deep by 21cm tall (38in. x 20.75in. x eight.25in.) and weighs 25kg (55lbs) — a definite two-man or woman lift. You will have to have a strong desk or table with at minimum 2.5cm (1in.) of clearance about all sides, and considerably additional to the entrance and back if you intend to use the Pro’s passthrough slot to accommodate much larger products. 

All three designs can just take products measuring up to 20.four inches vast by 18 inches deep by 2 inches thick, with a most printable area of about 11in. by 19.5in. The Pro’s passthrough slot makes it possible for for products measuring 20 inches vast by a quarter of an inch thick, with no restrict on length – you print ten inches at a time and then slide the content through the slot to procedure the following area. 

The Glowforge comes with an accent pack that features the black steel crumb tray, which sits in the bed of the printer to acquire any particles, an exhaust hose that clamps above the outlet on the back of the unit, and a starter pack of Proofgrade materials. We experienced a variety of woods and MDF, a couple of pieces of acrylic and some leather-based. Formal Proofgrade products arrive with peel-off protecting coating on both of those sides and a QR code from which the Glowforge’s created-in digicam reads the suitable laser settings. If you invest in third-occasion products, you can expect to have to have to verify their CO2 laser compatibility, and determine the suitable settings. The Glowforge Community is valuable with this issue, amongst several other folks. 

There are two options for disposing of the dust and odour that arise from the exhaust hose: you can route the hose to the outside through a window or a window vent, or you can attach it to the optional air filter unit. The latter is hefty both of those in terms of body weight (22kg/48lbs) and expenditure ($995/£901.sixty two), with replacement filter cartridges costing $250 or £187.96. The estimated cartridge lifetime depends on what you print, and for how long. 

The Glowforge Pro appears like a huge printer with a white moulded plastic situation, a glass best and lid (with a digicam on its underside), which opens to reveal the rail-mounted laser tube/arm/printer head system, and the crumb tray on the ground of the unit. There’s a entrance door that pulls down for straightforward entry to the insides, with passthrough slots entrance and back for huge products (Pro model only). At the back you can expect to locate the ability enter, on/off switch and exhaust relationship. There’s a huge circular button on the best, on the proper side towards the entrance, which flashes white to show that the Glowforge is all set to print, which it does when you push the button. 

Setup & features 

Once you’ve got unboxed the Glowforge and place the several things in put (printer head, crumb tray, exhaust hose) you ability it up and wait around for the button to glow a teal colour, which signifies that the printer’s momentary Wi-Fi entry place is all set to connect to your personal computer (or phone) to complete the set up. You do this via set, signing in using the e mail and password applied in the course of the ordering procedure. Once the printer head has done its calibration, you can reconnect to your standard Wi-Fi community. Wi-Fi is the only relationship process involving your personal computer and the Glowforge: you can find no cable included, and an world-wide-web relationship is required for print processing. 

Jobs are ready for printing in the Glowforge website app,, which can import bitmap (JPG, PNG) and vector information (SVG, PDF). The app also presents entry, via a Glowforge Premium subscription, to a catalogue of absolutely free and compensated-for types, and makes it possible for you to build your very own jobs from scratch using a selection of clip-artwork-style graphics, shapes and textual content in a array of fonts. 

Glowforge High quality is, as the name indicates, not low-priced: the full selling price is $/£50 a thirty day period, despite the fact that it’s at the moment on give at £349 in the British isles when billed each 18 months (£19.39 a thirty day period). If you might be a self-assured person of vector graphics application like Inkscape or Adobe Illustrator, you may possibly not have to have Glowforge High quality. But the instruments (particularly the vehicle-outline feature), artwork and fonts are practical, and the price reduction might perfectly swing the choice for some people. Other High quality benefits consist of processing of print types on more quickly cloud-based servers, limitless cloud storage for your types and early entry to experimental characteristics. 

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You can also build a print by drawing or writing on paper, placing it in the bed of the unit and acquiring the digicam in the lid transform it into a digital file, which you can then manipulate in several strategies in the website app. 

The Glowforge Pro utilizes a CO2 laser tube running at ten,600nm and averaging 45W (the Plus and Primary designs use much less impressive 40W lasers), with the X/Y axis motors permitting the laser to engrave with one,000dpi resolution. It can rating (drawing a line, at low ability) and engrave in a number of passes, varying the laser ability involving pixels to attain distinctive levels of darkness. The laser can also slash content up to half an inch (one.2cm) thick, at speeds based on the content and its thickness.  

You can’t slash steel, as this would need laser ability levels further than those people feasible on a desktop unit. On the other hand, you can slash wood, material, leather-based, paper, acrylic, mylar, rubber, and additional. All of these products can also be engraved, together with glass, coated steel, marble, anodised aluminium and titanium. So you can, if you would like, etch your name or a design onto your phone, tablet or laptop, amongst other factors that usually are not additional than two inches thick. 

Usability & effectiveness

I tested the Glowforge Pro by engraving photos and scans onto a selection of Proofgrade products. I also created a headphone stand in MDF and etched the ZDNet emblem into the back of an iPad.


A scan of a wood engraving by Thomas Bewick (1753-1828), engraved onto Proofgrade maple plywood, which expenditures £20.26 in the British isles for each normal-size (12in. x 20in.) medium-thickness (one/8in.) sheet. Print time was about forty minutes.

Picture: Charles McLellan / ZDNet. Original artwork: Thomas Bewick


A headphone stand, slash and assembled from Proofgrade draftboard, which expenditures £8.28 in the British isles for each normal-size (12in. x 20in.) medium-thickness (one/8in.) sheet. The design was downloaded from the Glowforge Catalog, and print time was about 11 minutes.

Illustrations or photos: Charles McLellan / ZDNet


A picture (above still left) engraved on Proofgrade crystal clear acrylic at draft resolution and photographed towards a window pane (above proper). A normal-size (12in. x 20in.) medium-thickness (one/8in.) sheet of Proofgrade crystal clear acrylic expenditures £16.96 in the British isles.

Illustrations or photos: Charles McLellan / ZDNet  


A emblem etched onto the back of an iPad. I discovered the suitable laser settings for this anodised aluminium content on the Glowforge forum. This etching took about ten minutes.

Illustrations or photos: Charles McLellan / ZDNet  

I experienced no big problems with any of these jobs. The website app interface is simple, with great feedback about which phase of the procedure is underway. Print times will fluctuate based on the size and detail amount of the material, no matter whether it’s remaining engraved or slash, and the output resolution: photos can be Draft or Hd graphics can be Draft, SD or Hd, and you can find a 3D Engrave selection (for certain products) that engraves with further depth (you can expect to have to have a heightmap image file for this). Taking away the protecting layer just after printing can be fiddly for sophisticated engravings, but it’s worthy of the effort and hard work: removing it prior to printing runs the chance of unattractive burn off marks.

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There’s a good volume of noise when the Glowforge is running, particularly if you use the air filter as there will be two enthusiasts whirring absent. The volume of noise and residual odour will rely on the material remaining printed and the content it’s remaining printed on. We tested the Glowforge in a residence workplace in a modest terraced property, but its preferred habitat is likely a spacious workshop exactly where loved ones/neighbour-annoyance is not going to be an issue.


The best-end Glowforge Pro set up we tested, with the air filter unit, is by no suggests low-priced at $six,990 or £6,897 all told ($/£5,995 + $995 or £902). Formal Proofgrade products have top quality prices, as well, and certain forms are at the moment in shorter offer in the British isles. “Given that launching Glowforge in the British isles we have experienced a significantly greater desire than predicted for Proofgrade products. We are however undertaking our greatest to meet this desire and to assure each British isles buyer gets their Proofgrade products,” Glowforge told ZDNet.

Extra very affordable third-occasion products are readily available on the net and in retail shops, but it’s up to you to ascertain their laser compatibility and implement the suitable settings in the website app. Then you can find the Glowforge High quality membership, if you have to have it, which is at the moment on give at £19.39 a thirty day period.

If you might be ready to vent the exhaust out of a window alternatively than use the air filter, fall down to a 40W laser with slower engraving and cutting speeds, and forego increased cooling and the passthrough slot, you can minimize the outlay to $/£3,995 for the Plus model — substantial personal savings of $2,995 and £2,902 above the Pro+air filter selling price tag. And if you really don’t intellect even slower engraving velocity, and half the warranty interval, $/£2,995 for the Primary model appears fairly desirable. 

Glowforge model




CDRH classification

Class four

Class one

Class one

Laser ability





12 months  

12 months  

six months  

Upgraded hardware (more quickly velocity)  




Engraving velocity  




Lower velocity  




Improved cooling  




Passthrough slot








I discovered the Glowforge Pro a fulfilling unit to use. It is simple to set up, engraves and cuts a great array of products, and use situations are minimal additional by the user’s creative capabilities than any deficiencies of the equipment itself.

You will have to have to be mindful of basic safety, particularly if experimenting with third-occasion products, and will have to cope with noise and some odour problems when printing – even if you have the exhaust hose appropriately set up. You will also have to have plenty of area to property this huge unit, particularly if you intend to use the Pro’s passthrough slot. 

You really don’t have to spend $3-six,000 on a laser cutter/engraver, as (much less able) items are readily available for as tiny as $500, or even much less. We are looking in this article at the mid-array, although above Glowforge’s choices are industrial-amount gadgets that cost considerably additional.

The Glowforge Pro is an fantastic choice for perfectly-heeled hobbyists and makers, although the Plus and Primary designs give additional very affordable routes into the world of laser cutting and engraving. Glowforge is not just for hobbyists, possibly: a lot of people operate lucrative modest enterprises offering the jobs they build on these functional equipment. 

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